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Former Kiwi PM eyes top UN job

Monday 11 April 2016 | Published in Regional

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NEW ZEALAND – Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark is well placed to become the ninth secretary general of the United Nations, experts say.

Clark currently heads the UN Development Programme and is one of eight people seeking to replace South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon when his second term finishes at the end of this year.

Clark announced her candidacy at the United Nations in New York on April 4.

She will this week face questioning from representatives of all 193 countries in the United Nations as part of her bid to become the world body’s new leader.

It is the first time the UN has interviewed candidates for the top job at a General Assembly. As well as allowing all member nations to take part in the process, the interviews will be held in public.

Who gets the job has traditionally been decided behind closed doors by the 15-member Security Council.

All eight candidates will be formally introduced to the assembly, which includes all 193 member states plus observer.

The general public can also ask questions if time allows.

Each of the ten candidates has a televised and webcast two-hour timeslot, starting with a short oral presentation.

They must also submit a 2000-word statement of their vision for the United Nations for 2017 and beyond. News media will be able to ask questions of each candidate after the dialogues.

British bookmakers William Hill have Clark as the joint favourite for the job with Unesco Director-General Irina Bukova from Bulgaria.

There will be another round of dialogues in June and the Security Council will begin its deliberations in July.

Waikato University professor of law Alexander Gillespie said Clark’s chances of winning the contest were good.

“On paper, she is the foremost contender,” he said. “She has been running the United Nations Development Programme, and she has an excellent record at the United Nations.

“She ticks all the boxes and she is well known for her work ethic and her accomplishments.”

Of the eight secretary generals so far, three were European, two were African, two were Asian and one was from Latin America. No woman has so far held the role.

Otago University International Relations professor
Robert Patman said Clark might benefit from her gender.

“She is in quite a competitive field of eight people, four of whom are women,” he said.

“But I don’t think that is the crucial reason. I simply think Helen Clark is the most experienced candidate available.”

Clark discussed the gender issue in an interview with the BBC.

“I am not campaigning as a woman candidate, I am campaigning as the best person for the job,” she said.

“But obviously I am a woman and as someone who has been a long-time advocate of women’s empowerment and gender equality I like to see women get to the top of whatever field of life they choose.”

- PNC sources